Editor’s Note: The question has been asked many times, many ways. From a song by Jimmy Buffett to an online musing by a Jesuit priest…but nobody’s really seriously given it the same amount of thought that Big Dub has here. And that’s sort of terrifying, so it’s good to post this just so we can keep an eye on him. You’re welcome.
Everyone shares a common trait to wonder about certain things in life. Is there a higher being that controls everything? Is global warming really happening? Is there one (and only one) true soul mate for everyone out there? If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around, does it make noise? If I eat Diet Coke and Mentos at the same time, will my stomach explode? Are there evil possums luring innocent, trusting possums into the road, knowing that they will get smacked by a car? Sometimes my brain goes wanders among these things. Today it has wandered to the age-old query:
[ad#longpost]All of us have seen it, sang it and performed it. Most have probably performed it on roller skates. If we’re lucky, we did all of this before cameraphones and YouTube. We have quoted the song our entire lives, and it is ingrained into Americans from a very early age. (Elsewhere, the Hokey Pokey.) As you age, often your parents or some evil bully at school will come to you and tell you things. You know, things like Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny and Ollie, the Nefarious Octopus (perhaps my childhood was slightly different than yours…) are fictitious characters and don’t exist beyond your imagination. These moments are often scarring to a fragile mind. In my case, it was cruel to hit me with such things at the age of nineteen, as I wasn’t developmentally prepared for such shocking realizations quite yet.
However, I cannot recall a time–nor have I heard anyone else mention that they were ever informed (beyond a reasonable doubt, at least) that the Hokey Pokey truly isn’t what it’s all about. According to my logic and understanding of the Scientific Method, this means that the Hokey Pokey could quite possibly be what it is all about. I should know plenty about the Scientific Method as I had to repeat my science classes multiple times while in college. Anyway, my postulation is simple: if something has existed and been stated for more than half a century and never been disproved, there must be some elements of truth. Somewhere. Either that or a planetful of people with less time on their hands than me.
As lore would have it (or at least, Wikipedia), the Hokey Pokey originated in the 1940s in England, being inspired from a particular ice cream push cart vendor who would sing “Hokey Pokey, penny a lump. Have a lick, make you jump!”
…….right. So a vendor whose specialty was distributing sweet goodness to small children would sing “Have a lick, make you jump.” How utterly appropriate. Apparently, the wax wrapping that ice cream was sold on previous to cones was called a Hokey Pokey and a vendor was called a Hokey Pokey Man. Additionally, the actual motions and words to the dance originate from two Canterbury sisters from 1857. The original dance was claimed to have been performed deliberately and with rhythmical motion. So again, we have a Hokey Pokey Man selling ice cream and using some level of seductive, alluring dance to lure in “customers.” Fantastic. And, well, somewhat creepy.
While all of this is interesting (and creepy), it doesn’t truly answer the core question: What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about? What would this even mean? Well, this is my interpretation based on minutes of painstaking research.
Humans tend to define their reality by what is most important to them. This varies for each person, but there is an defining quality about it. For some people, love is what it’s all about. They have their family, friends and significant others and they hold the highest level of importance in their life. All of their motivation comes from bettering the lives of those people they love. For some people, money is what it is all about. Long hours, investments and time away from home are all sacrifices made in order to become wealthy. For others, education and an enlightened mind are what it is all about. Some believe Xbox 360 is what it is all about. This discussion could continue endlessly. So in order for the Hokey Pokey to truly be what it is ALL about, it must encompass all of these things and many more.
So I believe what we’re faced with is this: if the Hokey Pokey is whatever life is all about to you, then the motions of the dance signify whatever motions you go through each day to attend to those things. Caring for your family. Making some coin. Killing things with ludicrous weapons on your Xbox. Whatever. And sometimes it’s a good idea to step back and see that, in the cosmic scheme of things, putting your left arm and then taking your left arm back out, makes about as much difference to the universe as anything else. Again, use of a cameraphone and YouTube is not required. Licking and jumping is also optional.
Look at this way: there is just as much factual proof that the Hokey Pokey is what it is all about as there are many of what you believe on a daily basis, so why couldn’t this be true? If it is indeed true, what other life changing ideas could also be true? I’ll keep thinking about these things so you don’t have to.